Tonight's loss at Verizon Center also marked the continuation of their inability to protect the lead, especially in the third period. Again, the Caps were the first on the board tonight with Mike Green netting his first goal of the season nine minutes into the first.
Mike Knuble upped the Caps' lead to two goals when he converted a beautiful cross-ice pass from Alex Ovechkin, five minutes after Green's tally.
However, the Capitals scorers were quieted in the second period, being held scoreless in the second stanza for the third straight game. The Devils' Brian Rolston scored eight minutes into the second off a pass from Rob Niedermayer (a play that looked strikingly similar to the Knuble goal).
With seven minutes left in the third, David Clarkson put away a Nicklas Bergfors pass from behind the net and the Caps could not answer.
In Overtime, neither team could muster a game-winner, despite a late Devils' power-play after a Brendan Morrison hooking penalty. During that power-play, Jose Theodore made, perhaps, the best save (or saves) of this young season.
With Parise on the doorstep, Theodore made a flailing stick-save and denied a rebound attempt by Parise with his glove.
Parise helped the Devils get the two points in the standings, as he and Jamie Langenbrunner put the puck past Theodore in the shootout; Nicklas Backstrom was the only Capital able to find the back of the net in the shootout period.
The Capitals' performance tonight was Jekyl-and-Hydeian, if you will. In the first period, the Capitals took only one penalty (not including a five-minute major for fighting when Captain Chris Clark dropped the gloves against Clarkson), and looked like the explosive team they are capable of being.
Mike Green finally scored a goal, the first this season by any Caps defensemen. The goal was a typical Mike Green goal; burying the puck after a rebound comes dribbling out.
In a game where Coach Boudreau switched Mike Knuble and Alex Semin in the line combos, Knuble answered by playing with the physicality the Capitals expect from him. He was a force in front of the net and finished the game a +2 (1 G, 1 A).
Though Ovechkin didn't score a goal tonight (and had a few unnecessary give-aways), his passing on the ice was great. His laser-guided pass through the slot to a streaking Knuble gave him his seventh assist and an NHL leading 12 points.
However, Mr. Hyde showed his face in the latter stages of the game as the Capitals continued to take unnecessary restraining penalties. When you have these types of senseless penalties late in the game, it tells you that the Caps are being out-worked at the end of contests.
Brendan Morrison's hooking penalty in OT is a prime example of what has been plaguing the Caps this season. After bringing the puck into the offensive zone, Morrison lost the puck against the boards to Zach Parise. Instead of trying to hustle back on defense, Morrison spun around and tried to slow Parise down by hooking him with his stick.
It is these types of restraining penalties that are killing the Capitals late in games.
Though the Caps PK managed to hold the Devils' Power-play off the board tonight (0-5), mostly because of the outstanding play from Jose Theodore in net, the Capitals continue to keep games close because of their inability to stay out of the Box.
Jose Theodore, who got his second straight start between the pipes tonight, played like the Vezina Trophy winner he was in Montreal. Theo made some incredible stops on the Devils' scorers throughout the game.
The goals he did give up were more due to a lapse in defense than any fault of Theodore. The first goal, which started off of an odd-man rush, was scored by Rolston, who was wide open after Alex Semin fell down on the back-check.
The second Devils' goal came after a two-minute offensive surge in the Caps zone, where the Capitals' defense failed repeatedly to clear the puck or get a stoppage.
Though Theodore eventually gave up two goals in the shoot-out, it was his overtime heroics that carried the Caps to that point. After tonight's loss, Theodore moves to 1-2-2. Despite that less than desireable record, Theo has a respectable 2.45 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
It is clear that the Capitals plan to use a two-headed Goaltender game plan, with Varlamov expected to make at least one start this week as the Caps have a three-game home-stand.
But Jose Theodore's play early this season, especially his phenomenal saves tonight in overtime, have shown that there may be a little bit of game left in the 12-year veteran.